By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Writer
Immediately after winning their first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Manufacturer’s Championship in 16 years, Ford Performance is preparing to keep their momentum going into next season as the ‘Blue Oval’ is retiring the Fusion model and hyping the new Mustang for the 2019 season.
The switch to the Mustang is the first model change for Ford in NASCAR in 13 years. The Fusion, which was run from 2006-2018, also transformed from the Gen 4 to Gen 5, and finally the current Gen 6 car. The Mustang marks the eighth different model that Ford has officially competed with in NASCAR competition.
“The Mustang has been a work in progress for a few years,” Ford Performance driver Paul Menard explained. “Ford Performance has definitely done their homework on it. I’m really excited about shaking it down in Las Vegas in month or so and going to Daytona.”
In 2018 alone, the Ford Fusion visited victory lane in 19 of the 36 races throughout the season. Stewart-Haas Racing won 12 of those 19 races with Team Penske scoring the other seven victories for Ford.
Meanwhile, rival manufacturer Chevrolet, who introduced the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 into NASCAR’s Premier Series struggled visibly. In 2017, Toyota struggled as the start of that season with their new Toyota Camry.
Questions remain as to whether Ford will encounter those same struggles.
“Obviously we watch our competition closely, and for sure saw that Chevy struggled” Mark Rushbrook, the Global Director of Ford Performance Motorsports admitted. “What fully led to those struggles, I assume they understand better than we do. A lot of the speculation was that it was due to the new body. It was also potentially due to the new rules and new rules enforcement with Hawkeye.
“What we have done, seeing those struggles, obviously they didn’t want those struggles, we don’t want those struggles, so from the time that we finished our submission process, and knew what our approved surface was, we’ve had those same resources working on the design to lead to the successful submission, working on how we’re going to go race it now at Daytona, Atlanta, Las Vegas because our intent is to go win those races.”
Chevrolet, which most recently won the Manufacturer’s title in 2015, finished third in the Manufacturer’s Standings last season. With speculation blaming a combination of the new body, rules package, and Hawkeye system, for Chevrolet’s woes, Rushbrook wants Ford Performance to avoid the same fate.
“We don’t want to take that step backwards. We know that Chevy didn’t want to step backwards either. I know there’s no guarantees on that, but we’ve got a new body, new aero rules, so we have a lot to continue to learn. The intent is to be competitive from the first race.”